Sometimes, I'm Such a Moron!
We usually post a sign at the head of the bed if a patient has a nickname. Someone had done so for my patient, Mrs. B. Her nickname was, "Littlefoot".
"Very cool," I thought to myself. "Someone with American Indian bloodline."
Mrs. B. was intubated because of a stroke. She was one of two patients who were assigned to me for the weekend in our ICU. The unit was full and, not surprisingly, it was busy. A lack of support staff made it especially hectic. Still, I wanted Mrs. B. to feel as though she were my only patient.
I studied Mrs. B's face more closely searching for distinctive Indian features. She didn't seem to have the classic profile but invasive tubing has a funny way of perverting people's looks. Of course, while taking her pedal pulses, I studied her feet. They must have been especially small as a child. I had such respect for the plight of the American Indians and felt honored to be caring for her. I ruminated over where her tribe might have originated.
As with any stroke patient, I tried to imagine what type of hell she might be experiencing. Did she suffer from some sort of locked-in syndrome? What type of aphasia might she have? Did, "Hello Littlefoot, I'm going to be your nurse today," sound like, "Cello, Sisyphus, we're going to be eating Pope souffle."
She clearly tracked me making steady eye contact. When I used her Indian name her stare seemed somehow more intense. I comforted her, stroking her brow saying how special it must feel to be an ancestor of America's first people.
As with any nursing unit, we turn our patients every two hours. But the short staffing forced me to do many turns alone. I always let Littlefoot know what I was going to do before proceeding, assuring her safety.
Nearing the end of Sunday's shift, the lone assistant responded to my overhead page. When she arrived, I was comforting Littlefoot, telling her we were about to turn her.
"Hey!" the assistant suddenly boomed, her face contorted with question.
"Why on earth are you calling her Littlefoot?"
I gave her one of those stares that could kill and asked her to be a bit more respectful.
"Check out the sign," I told her. "It's her Indian name."
The assistant slowly shook her head and then told me to check out the sign.
"Oh, sweet Jesus," I thought. "I'm such a moron!"
Had I actually taken the time to more than glance at the sign, I would have realized that Mrs. B had a dog whose name was--you guessed it--Littlefoot.
I looked directly into Mrs. B's eyes and apologized profusely. At that moment, I could only hope she had either not understood or had a forgiving soul.
The aid had walked out of the room. I found her doubled over with laughter. I was embarrassingly speechless.
The story quickly swept through the unit. And for some weeks, I was known as, Nurse Littlefoot.Last edit by Joe V on Jun 17, '18
Joined: Jan '07; Posts: 404; Likes: 1,985
Critical Care RN; from US
Specialty: 14 year(s) of experience in Mixed Level-1 ICU